Ahmadinejad's attendance at Durban doesn't deter Germany

EU countries reviewing revised text of final document.

By JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN BERLIN
April 16, 2009 01:18
3 minute read.
Ahmadinejad's attendance at Durban doesn't deter Germany

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to boycott the so-called Durban II meeting - the UN's World Conference Against Racism - which opens next Monday in Geneva. The expected attendance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the conference prompted Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, to cite Germany's "special relationship" with Israel. The Islamic republic is co-chair of the Durban II preparatory committee. "Today's democratic Germany has a moral obligation and opportunity to lead the walkout against a man who mocks the dead and threatens the living," Cooper said in a statement. When asked if the German government planned to participate in Geneva, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Berlin told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that "a new text" to be approved by the conference was introduced on Wednesday and "if the red lines are crossed and there is no chance to change the document, Germany will prepare to back out" of Durban II. The spokeswoman said the European Union would vote on the new draft, which was now being reviewed in Geneva and Brussels. Asked if retaining the anti-Israel language contained in the first Durban conference's final document would represent a red line for Germany, the spokeswoman said Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had stressed that it was "not acceptable if Israel is criticized in a one-sided" way. Israel, Italy, the United States and Canada are staying away from Durban II. A chorus of critics in Germany and the US has expressed disappointment with Germany's decision to stick with Durban II. Journalist Alex Feuerherdt, co-sponsor of the "Boycott Durban II" initiative in Germany, slammed the German government for its willingness to participate in a conference infected with hatred of Israel and Jews. "One does not talk to anti-Semites," Feuerherdt told the Post. Cooper, from the Wiesenthal Center, said in his 11th-hour appeal to Merkel that "Monday marks the beginning of Durban II and that evening we will gather around the world to commemorate Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, and remember six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. It is inconceivable to stand in silent tribute to six million dead Jews, while simultaneously giving the podium of Human Rights to a Holocaust denier who seeks to eradicate six million live Jews in Israel." Meanwhile, after the Post reported last month that Dr. Juliane Wetzel from the Berlin Center for Anti-Semitism Research was advising the Foreign Ministry regarding Durban II and did not publicly oppose Germany's participation in the conference, the center's director, Wolfgang Benz, responded in a Tagesspiegel newspaper opinion piece in late March. (The Center is a key institution in setting Germany policy with respect to Durban II and efforts to fight anti-Semitism. It advised the German Foreign Ministry on Durban II and there is now a rift.) Opposing Germany's participation in Durban II and referencing Israel, Benz wrote, "Durban 2001 was also an example from which we could learn that one need not go to a party that will discriminate against a guest." Influential German journalists said the Post's article last month on the Berlin Center for Anti-Semitism Research's neutral position on German participation in Durban II had been instrumental in the center's decision to change its stance and come out in opposition to such participation. Two academics at the center, Dr. Peter Widmann and Dr. Angelika Königseder, told the Post in March that Wetzel has an advisory role within the German Foreign Ministry and she did not have a clear position on whether Germany should boycott Durban II. According to the Center's Internet home page, Wetzel is the center's spokeswoman, but she has refused to answer Post press queries since late 2008. In an e-mail to the Post on Wednesday, however, Wetzel wrote, "My attitude toward Durban II is the same as that of Mr. Benz." She declined to comment on the discrepancies between her current Durban II position and her colleagues' statements that she wished to remain neutral on the issue.


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